Introduction

This memorandum highlights some areas of concern that Human Rights Watch hopes will inform the Committee’s consideration of the Moroccan government’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) ahead of the Committee’s upcoming pre-sessional working group review. This submission discusses violations of the rights of persons with disabilities in Morocco under Articles 6, 12, 19 and 24 of the CRPD.

This submission draws from ongoing monitoring on the human rights situation in Morocco by Human Rights Watch, analysis of relevant Moroccan laws that specifically address disability rights, studies and reports conducted by different UN bodies and NGOs, and our interviews and meetings with government officials and other stakeholders in Morocco, including leaders of disability rights organizations, disabled persons organizations, persons with disabilities and their families, members of independent human rights associations, the National Council on Human Rights (CNDH) and the Economic and Social Council.

In February 2016, the Moroccan Parliament adopted Framework Law 97-13 on the rights of persons with disabilities[1], a step toward harmonizing legislation with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which Morocco ratified in 2009. However, the Framework Law falls short in some areas, such as in guaranteeing access to inclusive education for children with disabilities, and in affirming the right of legal capacity.

In your upcoming adoption of list of issues on Morocco, Human Rights Watch urges you to question the government of Morocco about the following key issues:

  1. Legal Capacity
  2. Education
  3. Institutionalization
  4. Women with Disabilities
  1. Legal Capacity (Article 12)

Although Article 18 of Framework Law 97.13 provides for persons with disabilities to "enjoy full capacity to exercise their civil and political liberties and rights," it qualifies this by stating that this capacity should only be recognized "in accordance with the conditions set forth by law."[2]

The current "conditions set forth by law" in Morocco do not yet conform with Article 12 of the CRPD. For instance, the Family Code of Morocco indicates that persons with disabilities, particularly intellectual or psychosocial disabilities,[3] may be deprived of their functional legal capacity – including the ability to exercise personal and financial rights – and put under guardianship.[4] Individuals with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities are deprived of legal capacity when they turn 18 based solely on examination by a doctor and without a formal legal process.  

In cases when someone acquires a disability as an adult, a court may deprive these individuals of their legal capacity and assign a guardian or family member to make decisions for them.[5] The person with disability can challenge this assignment in court but must demonstrate that they are of “sound mind” in order to do so.[6]

Without legal capacity, people with disabilities experience severe limitations to exercise their rights under Moroccan law. For instance, the Moroccan Code of Obligations and Contracts requires the consent of a guardian for people deprived of legal capacity, thus limiting opportunities for employment, to control finances, or to enter into other agreements.[7] The Family Code of Morocco states that all actions taken by persons deprived of legal capacity are null and without effect unless specifically allowed by the court when depriving them of capacity, thus limiting almost every opportunity for these individuals to exercise their rights.[8]

We welcome reports that the government plans to amend the Civil Code, including the Family Code and the Code of Contracts, in line with an overhaul of domestic law.[9] It is unclear, however, what the timeline will be for such amendments and whether these amendments will ensure the right to legal capacity for persons with disabilities in line with the CRPD. And although the Constitution of Morocco protects persons with disabilities from discrimination, it is unclear whether this would extend to ensuring their full rights under Article 12 of the CRPD and thus influence the interpretation of the Framework Law.

In your upcoming pre-sessional review on Morocco, we urge the Committee to ask the government of Morocco about the following issues:

  • How many persons with disabilities are currently living under guardianship in Morocco?
  • What is the timeline to amend the Civil Code, including the Family Code and the Code of Obligations and Contracts and how will the government ensure that these amendments will be in line with the CRPD, especially with regard to legal capacity?
  • What mechanisms are in place to protect persons with disabilities from abuse, exploitation and/or neglect in situations where their decisions, choices and preferences are substituted with those of their guardians? Have any cases of abuse of power been raised so far and what outcome has been achieved?
  • Does the government of Morocco have any plans to move toward a supported decision-making model? What barriers does the government face in implementing the right to legal capacity, including supported decision-making, and what measures is it planning to overcome those barriers?

 

  1. Education (Article 24)

According to the Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development’s National Study on Disability 2014[10], only 41.8 percent of children with disabilities aged 6 to 17 are enrolled in school.  The 2014 census by the High Commission for Planning found that 66.5 percent of people with disabilities have had no schooling at all, compared to 35.3 percent of the general population.[11]

The Ministry of Education has issued circulars and memorandums requiring schools to ensure the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream schools and classrooms.[12] However, these children continue to face barriers.

A 2014 study by Handicap International[13] on access to education for children with disabilities in the Souss Massa Drâa region found that children with disabilities were often denied access to education. Children with disabilities experienced a number of barriers in accessing school: stigma, ignorance and negative attitudes among the population, inaccessible education programs and school environments, and lack of inclusive education policies at the national level.

The state report to the Committee also identifies a number of difficulties hindering children with disabilities’ access to education, including the insufficient number of specialized teaching staff, negative attitudes of families, and the long distances children with disabilities have to travel to reach integrated classes.[14]

The state report indicated that as of 2013, about 555 integrated classes had been established in 383 educational institutions, benefitting more than 8,000 students.[15] However, these integrated classes, managed primarily by civil society, raise a number of concerns.[16] According to non-governmental organizations, the classes are mostly concentrated in urban areas and do not include children with disabilities in the education system beyond primary school.[17] UNICEF notes that the number of integrated classes is too low, that State support and resources allocated to these classes are insufficient, and that monitoring and quality assessment are lacking.[18]

In addition, while integrated classes have been set up, according to UNICEF, “ordinary establishments are not accessible and do not have adequate planning.”[19]

Families of children with autism and intellectual disabilities in Morocco reported to Human Rights Watch that they had significant problems integrating their children into mainstream schools, including objections from schools and teachers about having assistants in the classroom assigned to work with students with disabilities. They also raised concerns about the quality of education their children receive in special classes or in mainstream classes without assistants and about the lack of government support for providing reasonable accommodations for their children in mainstream classes.[20]

Additionally, some non-governmental organizations are providing a significant amount of support to children with disabilities in school – including by training, paying, and providing learning assistants for children with autism or intellectual disabilities and running parallel classrooms for these children – at their own expense or at the expense of families and with little or no government support for these services.[21] This has meant that families with sufficient financial and other means are more likely to be able to provide instructional support for their children, leaving many children with disabilities behind.

In 2014, the Committee on the Rights of the Child supported these concerns in their concluding observations, stating: “The State party has not engaged in building an inclusive system of education and continues to over-rely on non-governmental organizations to provide specialized services to these children.”[22]

While the Framework Law 97.13 guarantees people with disabilities the right to education, it may be interpreted to limit their access to inclusive education. Indeed Article 12 mandates the creation of separate institutions for education and training of persons with disabilities who are unable to pursue their education and training at other institutions.[23] This may promote continued segregation of children with intellectual or other disabilities, contribute to stigma surrounding disability, and deny these children the right to an education with their peers.

We urge you to question the Moroccan government in your upcoming pre-sessional review about the following key issues:

  • How is the government addressing obstacles hindering children with disabilities’ access to inclusive education, including the insufficient number of specialized teaching staff, negative attitudes of families, and the long distances children with disabilities have to travel to reach integrated classes?
  • What steps does the government plan to take to ensure provision of reasonable accommodation and make educational environments and curricula accessible for students with all types of disabilities, including in rural areas?
  • Do parents and children with disabilities who are denied access to education or reasonable accommodation have access to a reporting mechanism to ensure accountability?

 

 

  1. Institutionalization (Article 19)

Children with disabilities are overrepresented in institutions accommodating children who have been abandoned. A 2010 study on abandoned children in Morocco by UNICEF and the National League for Child Protection found that 18.5 percent of abandoned children had disabilities, and specified that this figure should be considered as incomplete.[24] Children with disabilities living in institutions for abandoned children were very unlikely to be adopted, and therefore could spend their entire lives in these institutions, which recognize that they do not have the necessary resources to adequately take care of children with disabilities.[25]

According to a study by Handicap International, cited by UNICEF, “children with disabilities who have been abandoned in institutions are victims of great discrimination in all spheres of society, often because of their status as children of unmarried mothers.”[26] In addition to being affected by general consequences of living in an institution that often harms the healthy and natural development of children,[27] according to this study, as cited by the daily newspaper L’Opinion, children with disabilities abandoned in institutions were more intensely affected by the inadequate conditions in the institution, leading to a deterioration of their physical and mental health. In particular, human resources in institutions were said to be insufficient, and physical infrastructures were not adapted to the need of children with disabilities, access to healthcare was inadequate, and 80 percent of these children did not attend school.[28]

The state report does not provide information on measures addressing the rights and needs of children with disabilities in institutions, beyond the care provided in hospital nurseries for abandoned children under the age of six years and in one center for abandoned children in Rabat.[29] The report does not provide details on any measures to ensure that children and adults with disabilities can live in the community.

We urge you to question the Moroccan government in your upcoming pre-sessional review about the following key issues:

  • What steps is the government taking to collect data on children with disabilities who have been abandoned in institutions?
  • How is the government supporting children with disabilities who have been abandoned in institutions to ensure they have access to their basic rights, including health, education and the right to live in the community?
  • Does the government have any plan to deinstitutionalize children with disabilities and transfer them to forms of alternative family care that respect their rights and dignity?

 

  1. Women with Disabilities (Article 6)

Women and girls with disabilities are particularly marginalized in Morocco. For example, according to the 2014 census,[30] 79.5 percent of women with disabilities had no level of education (compared to 53.4 percent of men with disabilities). Women with disabilities’ employment rate is particularly low: from 27 percent of persons with disabilities who declared having some form of permanent or temporary professional occupation, only 11.4 percent of them were women.[31]

Organizations of persons with disabilities have raised concerns that women with disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities, are particularly susceptible to violence.[32] This ranges from psychological violence to sexual abuse, often committed by a relative or friend.  There is no official data available on the number of women with disabilities who are victims of violence.

According to the Association of Parents and Friends of People with Mental Disabilities (HADAF), while efforts have been made to respond to violence against women in general, violence against women with disabilities has so far been neglected and ignored. Women with disabilities who are victims of violence are not taken seriously and lack access to assistance and justice.[33]

The state report reads: “The units established in all the country’s courts to cater for the needs of female and child victims of violence are endeavouring to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to all the services and resources provided to prevent violence and help victims to notify the competent judicial or administrative authorities of any cases of violence or ill-treatment committed against minors or adult women without the need to obtain their consent if they are in a serious condition or in a condition, such as mental disability, which prevents them from expressing their consent.”[34] While ensuring that women and girls with disabilities enjoy access to these services and resources is a commendable goal, women and girls with disabilities’ right to informed consent should be upheld in all circumstances.

On March 17, 2016, the government of Morocco adopted a revised bill on combatting violence against women (Bill 103-13) passed by the House of Representatives on July 20, 2016. Despite this positive step, the bill requires strengthening in many aspects.[35] For example, it does not include a disability perspective in defining the violence, nor does it address barriers specifically faced by women with disabilities in accessing the law enforcement and justice system.

In your upcoming pre-sessional review, we urge the Committee to question the government of Morocco on the following issues:

  • What legislative, administrative, or judicial measures has the government adopted to identify cases of violence and abuse against women and girls with disabilities?
  • What measures are being taken to ensure that cases of violence against women and girls with disabilities are handled in a manner compatible with the Convention, in particular with regard to their right to informed consent?
  • What concrete steps is the government taking to ensure that the services provided to women who are victims of violence, including medical, psychological and legal services, are accessible to women and girls with disabilities?
  • Is the government taking any targeted measures to ensure girls and women with disabilities have access to education and employment on an equal basis with others?

We hope you will find this submission useful and would welcome an opportunity to further discuss these issues with you. We thank you for your attention to our concerns, and wish you a productive session.

 

[1] Framework Law 97-13 (Loi-cadre n°97-13), Official Gazette No. 6466 (2016), p. 750, http://www.sgg.gov.ma/BO/FR/2016/BO_6466_Fr.pdf?ver=2016-05-30-104313-153 (accessed February 27, 2017).

[2] Framework Law 97-13, art. 18 (unofficial English translation).

[3] The Family Code of Morocco uses the term "demented" to describe persons with intellectual disabilities and the term "insane" to describe persons with psychosocial disabilities. Family Code of Morocco (Code de la Famille), Official Gazette No. 5358 (2005), p. 667, arts. 213, 216-217 (unofficial English translation), http://www.sgg.gov.ma/BO/fr/2005/bo_5358_fr.pdf (accessed February 27, 2017).

[4] Family Code of Morocco, arts. 208, 211, 213, 216-219, 233.

[5] Family Code of Morocco, arts. 211, 216-217, 220, 231.

[6] Family Code of Morocco, art. 218 (unofficial English translation).

[7] Code of Obligations and Contracts of Morocco (Code des Obligations et des Contrats), Official Gazette No. 46 (1913), p. 78, section 1, http://www.sgg.gov.ma/BO/fr/1913/bo_46_fr.pdf (accessed February 27, 2017).

[8] Family Code of Morocco, arts. 224, 226.

[9] Interview with government officials [names withheld], Rabat, April 29, 2015.

[10] Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development, “National Study on Disability 2014” (“Enquête nationale sur le Handicap 2014”), February 2015, p. 19, http://www.men.gov.ma/Ar/Documents/Rech-Nat2-FBilan-fr.pdf (accessed February 1, 2017).

[11] High Commission for Planning, “People with Specific Needs in Morocco According to the Data of the General Census of Population and Housing 2014” (“Les personnes à besoins spécifiques au Maroc d’après les données du Recensement Général de la Population et de l’Habitat de 2014”), http://www.hcp.ma/Les-personnes-a-besoins-specifiques-au-Maroc-d-apres-l... (accessed February 3, 2017).

[12] Government of Morocco, Report Submitted by State Party Under Article 35 of the Convention to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Morocco Report), CRPD/C/MAR/1, July 8, 2015, para. 152, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org.

[13] Handicap International, “Synthesis Report: Overview of the Schooling of Children with Disabilities in the Souss Massa Drâa Region” (“Rapport de synthèse: Etat des lieux de la scolarisation des enfants en situation de handicap dans la région de Souss Massa Drâa”), p. 16-17, http://www.men.gov.ma/Ar/Documents/diagnostic_EISMDfr.pdf (accessed February 1, 2017)

[14] Morocco Report, para. 157.

[15] Morocco Report, para. 151.

[16] UNICEF, “Annual Report 2014: Morocco”, p. 3, https://www.unicef.org/about/annualreport/files/Morocco_Annual_Report_20... (accessed February 2, 2017).

[17] Moroccan Associations of Child Protection, “Alternative Report on the Implementation of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child” (“Rapport alternatif relatif à la mise en œuvre de la Convention internationale des droits de l’enfant”), July 2014, p. 12, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CRC/Shared%20Documents/MAR/INT_CRC_... (accessed February 2, 2017).

[18] UNICEF, “Situation of Children and Women in Morocco – Analysis According to the Equity Approach”, September 2014, p. 83, cited in: UNICEF, “Child Notice Morocco”, 2015, para. 170, https://www.unicef.be/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/cn-marokko-eng-def.pdf (accessed February 27, 2017).

[19] Ibid.

[20] Human Rights Watch interviews with a group of families of persons with disabilities, Morocco, April 2015.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Committee on the Rights of the Child, “Concluding observations on the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Morocco”, CRC/C/MAR/CO/3-4, 2014, para. 52, http://docstore.ohchr.org/SelfServices/FilesHandler.ashx?enc=6QkG1d%2fPP... (accessed February 27, 2017).

[23] Framework Law 97-13, art. 12.

[24] UNICEF and National League for Child Protection, “Abandoned Children in Morocco. Scale, Legal and Social Overview, Care, Experiences” (“Enfance abandonnée au Maroc. Ampleur, état des lieux juridique et social, prise en charge, vécus”), 2010, p. 44, https://www.unicef.org/morocco/french/2010-Etude_Enfance_abandon_UNICEF-... (accessed February 27, 2017).

[25] Ibid., p. 43.

[26] Handicap International, “Synthesis Report of Studies “National Study: on Children with Disabilities

Abandoned in Institutions in Morocco” and “Regional Study on the Characteristics of the Process

of Taking Charge of Children with Disabilities without Families, and in Institutions in the Region of

Souss-Massa-Draa, Morocco”, December 2014, cited in: UNICEF, “Child Notice Morocco”, 2015, para. 48. https://www.unicef.be/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/cn-marokko-eng-def.pdf (accessed February 27, 2017).

[27] Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, “World Report on Violence against Children,” United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children, 2006, http://www.unicef.org/violencestudy/reports.html (accessed February 16, 2017).

[28] “Children with Disabilities Abandoned in Morocco: Social Institutions Criticized” (“Enfants handicapés abandonnés au Maroc : Des établissements sociaux pointés du doigt”), L’Opinion, December 22, 2014, http://www.lopinion.ma/def.asp?codelangue=23&id_info=42794 (accessed February 1, 2017).

[29] Morocco Report, para. 147.

[30] High Commission for Planning, “People with Specific Needs in Morocco According to the Data of the General Census of Population and Housing 2014” (“Les personnes à besoins spécifiques au Maroc d’après les données du Recensement Général de la Population et de l’Habitat de 2014”).

[31] Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development, “National Study on Disability 2014” (“Enquête nationale sur le Handicap 2014”), p. 16.

[32] Hicham Houdaifa, “The Ordeal of Women with Mental Disabilities” (“Le Calvaire des femmes en situation de handicap mental”), La Vie Eco, January 8, 2016, http://lavieeco.com/news/maroc/societe/le-calvaire-des-femmes-en-situati... (accessed February 3, 2017).

[33] Mouna Lahrach, “Violence against Women with Mental Disabilities: Everything Remains to Be Done” (“Violence à l’égard des femmes en situation de handicap mental : tout reste à faire”),  Dimabladna.ma, December 22, 2015, http://www.dimabladna.ma/index.php?option=com_flexicontent&view=items&id... (accessed February 3, 2017).

[34] Morocco Report, para. 95.

[35] Letter from Human Rights Watch to Hakim Benchamas, president of the House of Councillors, “Letter on Bill 103-13 Combatting Violence Against Women”, October 28, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/10/28/morocco-letter-bill-103-13-combattin....